Why diversity, inclusion and equity are crucial in publishing

It is undeniable that there have been some important breakthroughs in diversity over the past few years.

In January 2021 we celebrated the inauguration of the first female Vice President of the United States of America, February has been LGBT History Month in the UK and there are a growing number of female Board Members of FTSE 350 companies.

However, there is still much work to be done to provide everyone with a fair chance regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or ability. 

Diversity in writing and publishing is an area that still requires improvement. In 2019 a survey of more than 6,000 individuals working within the publishing industry found that only 11.6% of respondents identified as BAME, lower than the UK population average, and nearly 20% of respondents grew up in the South East of England.

Lack of diversity can stop underrepresented voices being heard

Although the proportion of women is high, this lack of diversity in the publishing workforce can inhibit the ability of authors from underrepresented groups to break through and get their voice heard. 

At the start of 2019, my independent publishing house Panoma Press committed to an inclusion target of having 80% of our books written by authors from minority groups because we want to work with and showcase people who feel that left to chance, they’re not being given a fair chance.

We primarily publish business and personal development books, so by focusing on elevating the voices of those from underrepresented groups, we are not only actively contributing to increasing the diversity of authors, but we are also helping to create equity in HR, leadership, entrepreneurship and other business books.

The pandemic led to pressure to take any clients and authors – but this wasn’t an option for me

We achieved this target in 2019 and 2020, and continue to push ahead with this fundamental value going forward. As founder of The Book Midwife®, I extended this target to encompass both businesses as well as the Above and Beyond Leadership Conference which I run each year. When the pandemic hit, there was financial pressure to pause the initiative and simply take any clients and authors.

However this was not an option for me. There is no ‘pause’ option for those who struggle to be heard on a global stage so we remained true to our vision and values. Panoma Press celebrated its 15th year in business in November 2020, reporting its best year on record with highest gross and net profit, proving the business benefits of diversity, inclusion and equity too. 

From working with a range of authors over the course of 15 years, it is evident why diversity is so important in writing and publishing. For society to really become more inclusive we need to make space for others to share their own perspectives and lived experiences. The global audience of book readers is not just straight, white males, so published authors should not be from this single category or marketing to this category only. 

Everyone deserves to see authors who reflect their experiences

Everyone deserves to see authors who reflect themselves and their experiences. Authors should be encouraged to write books that challenge the lived experiences of others and highlight privilege, as this is necessary for our entire society to progress.

Although we should  not assume that those from underrepresented groups need to or can only write about their challenges and experiences. It is about providing any author who wishes to write a book with the autonomy to write about whatever topic they choose. Books are an invaluable medium to give authors a voice they may never have had before, and readers an experience they may not have had. I feel so proud that my companies have been able to do this. 

But diversity and equity in writing and publishing is not something that is going to be solved by a single company, or even a single industry. Everyone involved in publishing, from editors, proofreaders, production managers and printers, to marketing, PR and sales, should be committed to calling out injustice and elevating the platform of those from groups traditionally underrepresented. 

My call to action is this: what could you do today to make space for someone to share their voice? Everyone has the power to make a difference. You can fuel the movement by buying and recommending a book from an author who shares an alternative perspective – perhaps it might even be published by Panoma Press!

Mindy Gibbins-Klein MBA FRSA FPSA is Managing Director of independent publishing house Panoma Press and founder of The Book Midwife®, a successful global book coaching brand.

Photo by Radu Marcusu